10 November 2011
A recent blog post from the “We Love Local Government” blog asked what the point was of local councils providing interactive maps with data like ATMs, when there are already apps for that (read the full blog post here).
The author makes a number of really good points – but ends by questioning why the local council spends time, money and effort on using GIS to create a map of items like ATMs and local businesses.
It isn’t the tool – it’s how it’s used
In this situation, it’s not that GIS is redundant in the face of Google Maps – it’s that the data that the participants chose to map wasn’t relevant to their audience.
When you do think of your local council, you think about the local services and amenities that it provides – like rubbish collection, libraries, playgrounds and parks.
And when you want to find out more about these amenities and services, you naturally think about your local council.
Relevant data is the key to using GIS software for effective communication
GIS software helps us to create maps that can be powerful communication tools.
Being able to visualise situations – and to be able to examine both the whole situation, and zoom in on detail – is a compelling way to share information.
The key to creating useful, relevant maps lies in understanding who your audience is, and what information they’ve come to you to find.
What data would a more relevant map contain?
A really relevant map would provide information on the local council’s services and amenities.
Sure, it might add in extra information that’s available – but still retain its focus on the core items that the council provides.
A great example of this is a project we worked on with Croydon Council – their “About Your Area” site provides interactive mapping that details the services and amenities provided by the council.
Using maps to communicate is a growing trend
It isn’t just local government bodies who are learning to use maps for communication with external customers – organisations in every sector, and of every size, are embracing the trend.
The challenge all organisations face is the same: to identify the relevant data for their audience, and create a map that really meets the audience’s needs.